The most frequently asked questions from people who are learning about the health consequences of Dentistry are answered here. More complete explanations and scientific references will be found in the books listed as suggested reading.
1. How does a Biological, Holistic or Mercury-free Dentist differ from other Dentists?
These groups of Dentists are those who practice dentistry not only with an understanding and concern for the physiology of the mouth but also how it relates to the rest of the body and their patients total health and well-being. These Dentists demand a scientific explanation or evidence of the safety and benefit of every material and procedure performed for their patients. Their motto is “Show me the Science.”
2. What is so bad about “silver amalgam” fillings?
For starters, they are misnamed. Since they are often more than 50% mercury and only about 14% silver, they should be called “MERCURY” fillings. Since the 1980s medical science has systematically removed mercury from most medicines and thermometers because of the serious damages caused by any exposure to mercury. It is a well-known fact that mercury is a very toxic element. Though claims of safety are common from the dental profession, risk assessment studies by both the United States Public Health Service and Health Canada indicate otherwise.
3. Does mercury actually escape from the metal structure of the filling?
Yes, contrary to what dentists are taught in dental school, mercury is a vapor at body temperature. Electron micrograph photos show mercury “oozing” from the surface of an amalgam filling. It then forms a vapor and can be visualized as the appearance of “smoke” with the proper filter.
4. Where does it go from there?
Research shows that 80% of the mercury vapor that is breathed into the lungs then enters the blood stream. Its life in the blood stream is measured by only a few hours as it soon passes through cell membranes into cells which is where most of the damage is done.
5. What health problems are potentially caused by this traveling toxic element?
There are at least 116 physical symptoms that have been related to mercury exposure. These fall into many different categories such as psychological disturbances, oral cavity disorders, gastrointestinal effects, and systemic effects. Systemic manifestations are observed under cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, immunological, endocrine, and musculoskeletal categories.
6. Why do physicians not recognize a toxicity that can have so many potential health effects?
It is because very few people have the same manifestations and often patients’ symptoms look like just a common disease. Mercury has been called the “great masquerader” because of this tendency to hide behind some other diagnosis.
7. How can I determine if my fillings are causing damage in my body?
A number of tests are available such as hair analysis, urine mercury, urine mercury porphyrin profile, fecal metal screen, intraoral mercury vapor analysis, electrical current testing, and a few others. Web sites are available where you can take a symptom “inventory” to see how many symptoms you may be experiencing or have noticed in the past. Since symptoms often do not appear until 3-10 years after the fillings are placed, your dental history may be something to look at as well.
8. Are there specific steps that should be taken in removing/replacing mercury fillings?
Yes, mercury-free Dentists have learned some very important measures to protect you, the patient, themselves, and their clinical staff, from further mercury exposure and health risks. In looking for a mercury-free Dentist, you should ask questions to determine if he/she is trained and competent to protect you from potentially serious exposure by the usual and customary methods of removal.
9. What are the alternatives to mercury-releasing amalgam fillings?
Gold is still a good restorative material, though expensive and more technique sensitive. High noble alloys should only be used. Porcelain filling materials are available by some clinicians but more expensive in time and money than direct fillings. The most commonly used materials are bonded resin ceramics, commonly called composites. Because they look so natural and have physical properties closer to tooth structure, patients love them. Improvements in the bonding and wear factors of current filling materials makes hypersensitivity and other problems, which were common in the first few “generations” of materials, now very uncommon.